Above the sofa in the living room hangs a seascape with two botters, a kind of fishing boat, by Willem Bastiaan Tholen (1860-1931). It is a fairly traditional work, certainly compared with the interior in which it hangs. In addition to this painting, the Sonneveld family also owned a river scene by the Rotterdam-born painter Gerard Altmann (1877-1940) and a landscape with windmills by Johannes Karel Leurs (1865-1938). All these paintings are stylistically related to the Hague School, a late-nineteenth century realist style comparable to the French Barbizon school.
They betray a somewhat conservative taste compared with the house’s modernist interior. However, the paintings were entirely in keeping with the dominant taste of the period. For example, the harbour magnate Daniël George van Beuningen (1877-1955), who bequeathed his collection and gave his name to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, initially focussed on collecting works of the Hague School and only in the mid-1930s began to collect more contemporary works.
When the house was restored in 2001, an attempt was made – unsuccessfully – to re-assemble this group of artworks because they are such a peculiar aspect of the decorative scheme: they are not really attuned to the modern interior. Tholen’s painting, however, with its restrained palette, fits well in this part of the house, which is furnished in similar earthy tones.
We know which paintings the family owned because the architects, Brinkman & Van der Vlugt, indicated on their drawings from 1932 where the paintings were to be hung, giving their precise measurements, including the frames. This tells us that the family owned the paintings before they moved to Sonneveld House.
W.B. Tholen, Seascape with Two Botters, collection Stichting Volkskracht Historische Monumenten.